Alex McLeish believes he and his players are duty-bound to take Scotland back to a major finals and restore pride in the international side.
McLeish has outlined to the squad they have the opportunity to become national heroes and he hopes fans will get on side at tonight’s friendly with Costa Rica.
Just over 20,000 tickets had been sold by close of play yesterday and Hampden Park is set to be only half-full, at best, for the clash. In the only previous meeting between the countries Scotland suffered a shock defeat in their opening game at the 1990 World Cup, in which McLeish played.
Scotland have qualified for just three major finals since, the last time in 1998.
McLeish came close to leading Scotland to Euro 2008 in his first spell in charge of the national side but suffered an agonising qualifying defeat by Italy in front of a packed Hampden.
“We are aware it is our duty to try to restore that fervour,” said McLeish. “Winning helps that obviously but we need to give a good performance level.
“We want to give the fans who come to the game something back. We thank them for coming. We know that it’s Friday night and Costa Rica are not the number one team in the world. But it’s a team that has qualified for the World Cup finals. They are ahead of us in the Fifa rankings.”
McLeish could hand out as many as ten new caps in the coming days, with Scotland travelling to face Hungary on Tuesday.
“There could be three or four [debutants] playing against Costa Rica but we will try to pick a team to beat Costa Rica,” he said. “They scored a lot of late goals in their qualifying campaign and they have good players and strength. They are a tall team. We have to stifle that.”
McLeish described preparing for his second debut match in charge of Scotland as “like starting again”. He considers himself to be a better manager than in his first spell, when he won seven out of ten games.
“I have been out of the game for a couple of years,” he said. “I did a couple of stints abroad, I don’t have too shabby a record in England.
“I feel I am better equipped, have a little bit more common sense and can apply that as much as possible. Sometimes you go on a whim, like we did in the last campaign [for Euro 2008], and sometimes you find it is the right answer. It is a mix of everything.”
McLeish has named 32-year-old Blackburn Rovers centre-half Charlie Mulgrew as captain tonight. “We will see what happens in the next game,” he said, with the injured Celtic defender Kieran Tierney many people’s tip to be skipper when competitive action begins later this year.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay is set to start after opting to play for Scotland over England. One of Jason Cummings or Oli McBurnie will likely lead the line – most probably the latter, currently on loan at Barnsley from Swansea.
“We are going to have to see what the strikers can do, and if they can bring it within this structure or whether we have to find goals from somewhere else,” he said. “But we have to give respect to the strikers we have brought into the squad and look to see if they can be potential important goalscorers for Scotland.”